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The beauty of the international academic lifestyle is not in the distance from friends and family. It is not in the intellectual stimulation and the chance to hobnob with the best and the brightest in one’s field (although this is surely not a downside). The beauty is in the chance to travel. Last year brought me Detroit, Marrakech, Houston and Atlanta (one of these is not like the other…). More recently? A European Association for Population Studies meeting in Vienna, Austria. As a demographer, I couldn’t help but notice that the average age of the out-and-about population was 65… but wow, what a beautiful city! Perhaps the most fascinating thing about it was that this place used to be the center of an empire! And now, they are left with so many magnificent buildings… and so few national and municipal offices to place in them. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find that the Ministry of Silly Hats had some fabulous office behind one of the high-ceilinged, elegant façades!

At any rate… the meeting was fantastic, and professionally enriching and promising. The company proved to be the perfect combination of engaging and “rocking out.” And I was able to stick around for some nice touring after the meetings.

I offer you a (semi-) grand tour of the place and my people:

Stephansdom, the religious center of the city.
Stephansdom

Hundertwassehaus, a mid-century example of imaginatively artistic public housing. Take note, Scandinavia!
Hundertwassehaus

“Pizza, Pasta, Schnitzel”– Only in Vienna!
"Pizza, Pasta, Schnitzel"-- Only in Vienna

I could never have believed that good food and drink could have been so inexpensive in Europe! From the 3€ half liters of wheat beer to the 6€ schnitzel to the 1.80€ wines… a frugal-man/woman’s paradise!
The happiest man in Wien

While impressive, in some cases the scenery paled in comparison to the glow of young love (Arieke and Maarten, engaged to be married in 2011!).
Hofburg, A&M

And of course my feminist cockles were warmed by the frequent reminders of the one, the only: Maria Theresa! The only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg.
Maria Theresa

But lest you (post-) modernists despair, Vienna does well to cater to the modern art aficionado as well. We saw a fantastic exhibit by the controversial Otto Muehl. What a risk to exhibit his work! I would have loved to be there at the opening to hear the apology letter read.
Museum Moderner Kunst & Kunsthalle

And in the spirit of radical artists, we also strolled by the Vienna Secession Building. Wiener Secession

On a sidenote, kick me for not taking photos of the Soviet monument (the Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee) on the Schwarzenbergplatz. Idiot idiot idiot. Well thank the internet for being such a good archive of photos. It certainly got my history nerve to itching.

Well, getting back to the grandeur of the empire

…and back to the typically touristic photo genre. Upper Belvedere, W & J

And no trip to Vienna would be complete without a visit to the Opera House.
Wiener Staatsoper

But I must admit… I missed it! I know, scandal!
Staatsoper Tour

Unfortunately, my flight home clashed with the State Opera House tour.
Staatsoper Tour, Backstage

So I ran off to the airport, while my friends toured the famous building. Back- and fore-stage! Staatsoper Tour

Staatsoper Tour
But I have sworn, hand-to-god, that I will make it back! Not just for a tour, but for an opera! A real life opera! And there are certainly some winners in the upcoming season… Indeed there are some chances yet.

Cheers, from Vienna!

(Ps- Please enjoy a few more photos on Flickr.)

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Now from Oslo!

Have arrived in Oslo. One week done. It’s fantastic! Can you tell?

Bring it Oslo, I’m ready for you! 😉

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So much is going on that I need to just get you up to date in one fell swoop! So here we go…

1) The elections: the “libertarian lite” VVD party won (31 seats), followed by Labor (30 seats) and then… gasp!… the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam PVV (24 seats, up from 8!). There was no majority, so coalition talks started with the VVD, PVV and the centre-right CDA (that lost big, from 41 to 20 seats). Those talks fell apart last Thursday, opening the door for new talks between the VVD (“libertarian lite”), Labor, D66 (also a “libertarian lite” party, but more left wing) and the Green Party. It’s unclear if these talk will succeed as the VVD and Labor (and D66 and the Greens) have some very different ideas about how to run the economy. But let me tell you, I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard that talks with the PVV were over. For now. But I’ll take it.

UPDATE: Ok, apparently as soon as I posted this (literally… like 2 minutes later) news came through that the talks between the VVD, Labor, D66 and the Green party failed. Now what??

2) The World Cup!!! Netherlands has played two of their three group play games. The first against Denmark was a 2-0 win… one of those goals as a DK own goal, oops. I watched that match in a bar downtown and it was super fun! The place just erupted when the Dutch scored! It was so loud in fact that you couldn’t even hear the vuvuzelas on tv! Haha. The second match against Japan was a nail biter. NL won 1-0, but there were a few scary shots on goal by the Japanese toward the end of the match. I watched this match in the airport in Denmark. I think I was probably the only Dutch fan there (I was certainly the only conspicuous Dutch fan, decked out in orange). A few people clapped when the Dutch scored, but I really let out a “Yeahhhhhhhhh!” with an enormous fist pump. Apparently Denmark was not the place to root for the Netherlands, given the Danes’ loss to NL in the previous match. Oh well. The Dutch are successfully through to the elimination round, but do have another match on Thursday.

Oh, and apparently the US are playing in this tournament as well? I did see the first match against England, but I’ve basically forgotten about them as I’ve been swept up by Oranje fever!

3) Why was I in an airport in Denmark, you ask? Well, last weekend I headed up to Lund, Sweden for the Nordic Demographic Symposium. It was good fun, professionally and personally. I gave a talk that was well received and was able to catch up with all of my friends and colleagues from Stockholm University and Statistics Norway. The only disappointment, the folks in Southern Sweden really weren’t as enthusiastic about the royal wedding as I had hoped. Indeed, on Saturday afternoon Crown Princess Victoria married her personal-trainer-turned-sweetheart. Although the ceremony was private, there were a number of public events in Stockholm and people turned out in droves to see the Princess and new Prince. I had hoped to score a tea-tray or coffee mug with a photo of the royal couple (or something equally tacky… royal china?), but the demands of the conference and world cup watching left little room in my schedule. Tyvärr.


Prolineserver 2010,
Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0)

4) Nearly 2 weeks until I head to the States for the big move out! OMG, I am hyperventilating. But I am very excited to see friends and family!

5) I saw the Hold Steady at Melkweg last night. Again, a great band in a small venue! These guys are such rockers! Their songs are all about rocking out and being young and living like they’re no tomorrow and loving every moment of it. A typical theme might be, for example: being 16 years old, at a music festival and it’s hot and dusty and everyone’s drinking, smoking and maybe even doing drugs (if that’s your thing) and you’re having the time of your life and you love EVERYONE and particularly that guy over there with the messy hair (wow, he’s cute) and the Hold Steady are on stage totally rocking out and they are singing a song about being 16 years old, at a music festival and it’s hot and dusty and everyone’s drinking, smoking and maybe even doing drugs (if that’s your thing) and you’re having the time of your life and you love EVERYONE and particularly that girl over there who is checking out you (wow, she’s cute). To me, this is the Hold Steady. And I think they’re fantastic.

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Back from my conference in Texas– very productive, saw some very interesting presentations and met up with colleagues from all over the world. I didn’t have much time for touring, but what I saw of Dallas was nice: had some tex-mex and visited the 6th Floor Museum.  The Museum chronicles the life and death of John F. Kennedy. It’s a bit embarrassing– I didn’t make the connection between the “Dallas” where my conference would be and the “Dallas” where JFK was shot and killed until our waitress recommend the museum as a must do.

I was amazed how iconic I found the Texas School Book Depository to be– I recognized it immediately, blocks away, as we walked toward the museum. And the grassy knoll! It’s just there, looking exactly the same as the photographs (although the grass wasn’t in great shape).  The museum was incredibly moving. The exhibit walks you through Kennedy’s life, the campaign, election, politics and crises of the first years of his presidency… and then all of a sudden the pace of the timeline slows and you are guided, frame-by-frame, through the events of that day: the news paper articles announcing the visit, the itinerary and purpose of the Texas trip, photos of the arrival in Dallas on Air Force One, invitations to galas, stills from that single, solitary film as they took the hair pin turn, passed the Book Depository and the knoll, JFK falling forward, Jackie crawling over the trunk of the car, speeding to the hospital, lay outs of the hospital, an original print out from the AP tele-text machine, and then suddenly you are standing in the corner where the gunman knelt and then shot and killed the President. Wow. To experience it minute by minute. Wow.

Well, back to the present day– I was very grateful that I had scheduled another week in WI after the conference. Most of my European colleagues are stranded in Texas or in their connecting cities until further notice. Oh man, how terrible for so many stranded travelers! I’m so thankful I have a comfortable and homey place to stay. And poor Iceland! It’s surely been a tough couple of years for them.

This whole air-travel debacle is really enhancing the sense of distance between Amsterdam and me. I am not feeling very optimistic about my return trip next week. But even more so I realize how dependent I am on the ability to quickly travel between the United States and Europe. So many of my family, friends and work colleagues are here in the US! And an increasing proportion of my family, friends and work colleagues are in Europe. The decision to divide my life with an ocean was very much contingent upon easy air-travel. And clearly that is not something to take for granted.

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